A new workshop series is informing the Cornell student community – especially those limited due to socioeconomic status – about basic needs resources available through the university, including food, housing, health and wellness.
The Basic Needs Workshop Series was launched last fall by the First-Generation and Low-Income Student Support office (FGLI), a unit in the Office of the Dean of Students.
“Based on my conversations with the student-run Basic Needs Coalition, which helped us identify the need for such a series, it was clear that many students are unaware of the various resources that Cornell offers to support students’ basic needs across campus,” said Dannemart Pierre, the Peggy J. Koenig ’78 Associate Dean of Students for Student Empowerment and director of FGLI.
Resource channels can be tough to navigate at an institution as large as Cornell, administrators said. “Our hope is that this series is a first step that both centralizes and promotes university resources for students who need them most, helping alleviate burdens of food insecurity, financial instability, housing insecurity and a lack of health care, and allowing all students to thrive within an inclusive and transformational educational experience at Cornell,” Pierre said.
Workshops inform students about resources on food security (SNAP), health insurance options (Medicaid), housing and renters rights, filing taxes, financial aid and time management. They also introduce students to the Cornell Food Pantry.
“Our goal is to provide equitable access to the Cornell student experience, starting with meeting students’ basic needs for food, shelter, clothes and health services,” said Marla Love, the Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students within the Division of Student and Campus Life. “Understanding and responding to the basic needs of our students is paramount to a their sense of belonging and transformation.”
These workshops are part of a broader network of programming and resources Pierre and colleagues in the FGLI and Dean of Students’ office offer to support student success, many of which are run in partnership with offices across campus.
Through the Access Fund, eligible students can receive up to $500 in financial support annually for transformative experiences and basic needs. Pierre, the FGLI office, and Cornell Dining collaborate on theSwipe Out Hunger (SOH) program, which allows students across campus to donate bonus meals from their plans. Donated meals are added to the accounts of students who qualify for the SOH program. Pierre’s work in support comes in the form of a mentorship program, a fellowship and regular community dinners for undocumented and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students. And the Kessler Scholars Program supports a diverse cohort of first-generation college students at Cornell.
Each Basic Needs workshop includes administrative staff experts from across the university. In a recent FAFSA 101 workshop, Kevin Jensen, the executive director of Cornell’s Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment, answered questions from attendees and took them through various aspects of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In the housing workshop, Denise Thompson, off-campus living manager, led an individualized budgeting exercise.
“We’re continuing some workshops this semester and have added some that are more salient for this time of the year,” Pierre said, such as tax filing and finding housing. “I really want to equip students with the right information so that they can have agency in making their decisions, whatever those decisions ultimately are.”
The final workshop in the spring 2023 series, Filing Taxes 101, will take place March 14, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., in the first-floor conference room at 626 Thurston Ave. The series is expected to resume in the fall.
Students may visit scl.cornell.edu/first-generation-low-income-support to learn more about the basic needs supports and resources.
Stephen D’Angelo is the assistant director of communications and marketing for Student and Campus Life.